Infinite Ways to Add to Nine

You’ve heard the expression More than One Way to Skin a Cat?

Well I hate that expression. So a long time ago I came up with my own version. I say: There is more than one way to add to nine.

I say this when I reach an impasse with someone where we are unable to find common ground. I say this with clients who get stuck in black and white thought patterns. I say it often.

My point is simple: there are lots of options out there and none of them are wrong, they are just different.

Fun fact: My favorite way to add to nine is 5+4. That was until tonight..

Today I finished the last paper of my college career. It was a research paper about the effectiveness of guided visualization, I could not have planned that better if I tried. I feel like I went out with a very authentic bang!

All morning while I was writing my paper and taking breaks my sweet husband was scurrying away trying to find something special for us to do once I finished. He wanted to celebrate me tonight. He would come in while I was writing and present a menu for a new restaurant for my review. Nothing was really appealing to me. A lot of restaurants think having a salad menu is enough of a vegetarian option, I whole-heartedly disagree.

On one of my breaks we came up with a plan. We found our own way to add to nine.

When I finished my paper and clicked “submit” I began to cry. I caught myself off guard, apparently it had been sitting there just beneath the surface waiting for me to finish this one last thing.

I went and found my husband charting out his math equations in the bedroom and I flopped down on top of him and let the tears flow.

I did it. I can’t believe it, I did it.

I completed a graduate program. I am a woman with a Master’s degree. I am the first woman in my family to attend college and I now have a Master’s degree.

I cried and cried.

I just cannot believe it. I can’t believe it. I did this! I DID THIS! I DID IT!

Then I started jumping on the bed and laughing and throwing blankets everywhere!

I DID IT! I FUCKING DID IT! I DID IT!!!!!

It was great fun, really it was, until I landed on my husband’s hand. He was okay though so I kept laughing and punching the mattress.

I did it man! I did it!

I left my husband to his math for a while longer and honestly I don’t even know what I did. I was so happy I was incoherent.

Later hubs and I started our master plan for the evening.

We headed to the grocery and picked up produce, ginger beer, ricotta, and naan. Then we came home and got to work.

We celebrated by making vegan/vegetarian naan pizzas with all of our favorite ingredients, our favorite cock/mocktails – the Moscow mule, and set up our dining room table like an trendy/artisanal restaurant. We brought the romantic dinner to our home.

naan pizza

We made three pizzas:

  1. Hummus, kalamata olives, plum tomato, artichoke hearts, sauteed onions and green peppers, basil.
  2. Tika Masala sauce, cumin sauteed garbanzo beans, mango, purple onion, mint.
  3. Ricotta cheese, blackberries, basil, black ground pepper.

We also made a pear salad which ended up being delicious but over kill, we had plenty of food.

When our dinner and cock/mocktails were ready we set the table and put on our Ben Howard Pandora station for mood music.

date night in1date night in

Over dinner we talked about our past, present, and future. We talked about my growth over the last 6 years that we have been together, and our growth together. We talked and talked and it was wonderful and romantic and just good in a very honest comfortable way. At one point I said what I often do about adding to nine in reference to how I went about earning my degree, I took the rode less traveled you could say. Then my husband said, it is more than that. It’s not just that there is “more than one way to add to nine”, there are infinite ways to add to nine.

There are infinite ways to add to nine because the options are endless. The options are endless. There is no right or wrong or good or bad, there are just infinite options, there is no limit to what is possible. Each person has there own unique path towards their own personal truth, the options are endless.

My path looked different from the paths of others, that is because it belongs to me and I walked it just as I was meant to. My mathematical husband helped me stand firmer in one of my own personal truths today.

 

Advertisements

Anti-Climax

I am nearing the home stretch of my time as a social work student and it is not quite what I expected. I thought I would be filled with an excited bursting energy and end my time in school with some sort of fanfare, but the truth is it all kind of feels like a non-event.

I think a few things contribute to my lackluster sense of excitement when it comes to finally reaching my end goal.

  1. Grad school was an overall disappointment. There were a few classes and topics that i found interesting and informative but on the whole I was severely underwhelmed and felt under challenged. For someone who is focused on growth I felt I experienced very little this last year based on my experiences in the classroom.
  2. This semester is primarily web based. I am not going to campus much this semester so it doesn’t really feel like I am even in school. I occasionally have to write a paper but the work load is minimal and with no classroom time it feels is as if graduation somehow came and went without me.
  3. This internship being a longer internship makes it feel more like an actual job than an internship. Not having to go to class adds to that feeling. I love the internship but I do not feel like an intern, I feel like an employee because I have been there for so long at this point and am so comfortable with the job.
  4. I have decided not to walk at graduation, I may have already mentioned that. I have zero interest in doing the big graduation and they are not having a small social work celebration so there is no stage walking this time around. This of course makes graduation feel like a nonevent because it kind of is.

I am not necessarily upset by the way things are ending, it is just not what I expected. This is a big life event for me and without the hubbub surrounding it somehow it doesn’t feel so big. I am sure as the months slip by and the end is really upon me I will start to feel differently. Or maybe I won’t. Either way I almost done and that means something, with or without the fuss.

Night Coffee

hennkim

I have officially reached the point in the semester when it feels like every single minute of my life is planned out until winter break, my fingers get numb from typing paper after paper after paper, my social life curls up in a hole and dies, and I start drinking coffee at night to pull everything off that needs to be done. This is the point of no return and I am staring it in the face wondering how in the hell to squeeze more than 24 hours out of a day.

The real kick in the pants is that in the middle of all of this chaos I recieved a jury summons. So now I have to press pause and go sit at a court house for who knows how long until I am more than likely dismissed. Honestly, the timing could not be worse unless it happened during finals week or graduation. I have two papers, one group paper, and two group projects that include role plays due in the next week and a half. I am feeling the pressure for sure.

I will get through it though just as I always do. In a few weeks this semester will be wrapped up and I will be just a few short months away from adding MSW to my credentials.

So tonight I am tucked away in a nest I created in the office, dunking my granola bar in my coffee and getting ready to embark on my first paper. Here is hoping I find all the research I need without issue and that my thoughts flow freely and cohesively as I write.

Okay let’s do this!

Social Working and Self-Care

I think my mini melt down Sunday night over gratuitous violence on TV was a precursor for what this week was bringing. It has been a heavy week. At one point my supervisor was jokingly telling me to bring in my sage and smudge the office to get rid of the bad energy.

There has been a good balance though I would say. Tuesday night the topic in group class was self-care, that was fortunate. And Wednesday we got plenty of outside time and we, the interns, even ran a few errands together. So there has been balance.

We attended an intense training around childhood sexual abuse this week, a client’s family member flew off the handle on one of our counselor (which we all knew was pure projection but I know it still didn’t feel good when it was happening), and there was just a lot of other weird things going on that added to the bad energy.

Today we all went home early so tomorrow we can come back refreshed and start preparing Halloween festivities for our clients. I am looking forward to baking with counselors tomorrow, I can’t believe I just said I am looking forward to baking.. It will be fun though.

So other ways I have personally offset some of this bad energy is by writing (obviously), going to bed early and sleeping late, eating well, getting plenty of outdoor time, spending quality time with hubs and Lu (watching the cubbies win!!), and not over doing it at internship this week.

I also reached out to a few people via email that I have been wanting to check in with. I emailed back and forth and caught up with my previous intern supervisor, she and I made plans for lunch in a few weeks. She called me clairvoyant because she said she was just getting ready to email me and check in, we are synced I swear.

I checked in with my friends at hospice, they are doing well, and I look forward to my next opportunity to see them. I also made plans with my former professor turned mentor. I will be seeing him in a few weeks. I am hoping to pick his brain about trainings and certifications, he has given me great leads in the past.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I am realizing that I am going to have to seek my learning opportunities outside of the classroom. I discovered through a conversation with my intern supervisor that the rates on some of these certifications are lowered for students. So it might actually be more affordable for me to do this within the next few months. Bring it on. We’ll see what I come up with.

In other somewhat related news.. I don’t want to count any chickens but I get the very distinct impression that I may have two different job opportunities lined up for me following graduation.. I do not know anything for sure but I caught wind of a few somethings and am waiting to see what happens. Again, I do not want to jinx anything but it would be awesome to have something lined up and not have to job hunt right out of school.

So that is where I am at right now. Still trying to take it easy this week. I am hoping the country will chill after the election and maybe the negative energy will clear as the holidays approach.. I hope.

 

Soul Work

When I first started at my internship a small concern I had was with the kind of counseling we provide to our clients. We primarily do pscyhoeducational which is surface level, educational information (as you could probably guess from the title), and does not typically address deeper issues such as trauma etc. The reason for this, at our agency, is because there is high turn over with our clients. We are residential but very short term for the most part and essentially the thought is that we don’t want to tap into some deep emotional wound in a session and the client leave the next day with this wound ripped open and no follow up support in place. We do make aftercare referrals for counseling and other services but it is ultimately up to the client to follow up on those services so there is no guarntee they will get the help they may need. The bottom line is we want to help without re-traumitizing the client.

I understand and respect why we use the approach we use, and I am grateful for any opportunity to practice clinical work. I know the work I want to do long term is the deep work though. It is what my life has prepared me for, much of my professional experiences have led me down this path as well. I want to help people heal at the source, not put a band aid on the wound.

My concern with this internship was that I would not have an opportunity to practice the kind of therapy I am interested in and that it might be hard for me to have the boundary of staying on the surface with a client when I know the issues hey present with run deeper. I am happy to share it had not been an issue. My boundaries have kept me in line with our mission and I have even gotten the opportunity to practice some of my deeper work in a way that is appropriate for my setting and the therapeutic goals we strive for with clients.

I have my own case load now, which I am loving, and I am self-advocating for the opportunity to run a group. I presented a topic for group, with an associated exercise, to my supervisor and she loved it so I am hoping she will give me a chance. We were told at the beginning of internship that we probably would not be running a group unless we really wanted to at some point, and I do! I want the full experience and this internship allows for that. I will have the opportunity to family counseling in addition to the individual counseling services I am already providing so I would love to try running a group as well. I have some experience co-facilitating a group but I would love to try my hand at it solo.

The opportunity I mentioned about getting to practice “deeper” work has showed up in the form of reframing things for my clients and working with them to identify internalized negative messages the outside world has given them that are now causing them to have low self-worth etc. It is still on the surface but they are important topics and I get so excited when I see them make the connection.


 

I started this post this morning before internship and then was pulled away by a phone call. I did not have an opportunity to wrap it up before I left the house so I left it as a draft to finish when I got home..

An update to the original post is that I was asked to run group tomorrow!! I am over the moon!! I created a visual to go along with group that will be used as a sample/example and I will have the opportunity to work creatively with our clients while they create their own version of my template. My heart is so full. Not only do I get to run a group on a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, I get to essentially do expressive art therapy with the clients which is also something that holds deep meaning for me. This is what whole hearted, authentic therapy looks like to me.. Being able to share yourself in an authentic, therapeutic way with your clients.

I cannot wait to report back and share how my first group session goes.

In the interim, today was another great day. I got a lot accomplished, I got to work creatively with another intern (we had a blast), I met with one of my clients and had what I consider a productive session. I also felt I made deeper connections with some of my colleagues.

I cannot tell you how good it feels to be doing well at this placement. It feels good to succeed, it feels GREAT to succeed at something you were afraid to do in the first place. Everyday I feel my confidence and my resolve to do therapeutic work growing. I am so so eternally grateful. My words are not big enough to hold the gratitude in my heart and soul.

My cup runneth over.

high-five

 

Intellectual Property

Before I started the social work undergrad program I had to finish up some required prerequisites, math, science, English, and a few electives. It was much less painful than I had imagined it being when I was working not wanting to return to school. I particularly liked the science courses and the electives, I took all sociology electives.

One of my sociology professors stood out from the rest. He was a retired PhD from a northern school. He was an activist, and an author, and the equivalent to my Morrie – if you have ever read Tuesdays with Morrie. It was a diversity class and he was constantly challenging us, it was amazing. He is to credit for my becoming a volunteer and becoming active in many different organizations. He strongly encouraged us to be involved in what is going on around us, as a volunteer, an activist, an advocate, in any way we can.

Every week when I went to his class it was like going to church, his words were wise and came from a place of pain and experience. I am forever grateful that we crossed paths if only briefly, he had an enormous impact on me.

One class I, towards the end of the semester, I remember him warning us about going off to university and not getting our full experience and/or being taken advantage of by our professors. This sounds weird, especially that last part, I know. I never fully put together what he was saying either, until grad school. His words ring in my ears now, I finally understand the message fully.

He was talking about our professors being more concerned about Publish or Perish than teaching us and being engaged. Personally I have had some outstanding professors that I am honored to be learning from, I have seen and heard some of what my Morrie was talking about though.

At the grad level the entire experience feels less personal. In undergrad I had a professional relationship with the director of the program and felt acknowledged and encouraged in the work I was doing. Maybe I was a bit spoiled by that because you certainly do not get that at grad level. I believe the director knows who I am, she and I sat on a quarterly meeting together when I was in undergrad. Now there is no reason for us to interact though.

Even the advisers feel standoffish at the grad level though which surprised me. I have tried on multiple occasions to meet with my adviser and they all but refuse. They will do everything in their power to handle the issue outside of the office. That is fine I guess, they have a lot of students to manage and I recognize that. Over all though the cold reception from the admin office does make the program feel less personal than the undergrad program.

The longer I am a student the more I am getting to see behind the curtain of academia as well. There certainly does seem to be pressure to do research and publish your findings in order to be relevant, and being relevant is clearly very important. Seems like a lot of pressure and almost competition. The energy around Publish or Perish is tense for sure.

A professor who I deeply admire from undergrad strongly encouraged a colleague and myself to not only publish our findings from the community research we were doing last year but also to consider staying in school past the grad level. It all seemed exciting at the time but looking back at it, that path is not for me. Not at this point in my life at least. The reason to take that path is if you want a career in academia, as it stands now that is not my focus. I could maybe see myself being an adjunct in retirement but right now I want to be hands on practicing.

Another observation I have made sense being back in school full-time is the importance of protecting your intellectual property. I have even considered it at times when I write in this blog. Most of what I write is personal but on occasion I branch out a bit and what is stopping someone from taking my brain work and claiming it as their own?

I have seen this very thing happen at school, and have personally experienced it on more than one occasion. You share an idea with another person and next thing you know they have shared it with the class without giving you credit. This may seem like a small offense but it the tip of the iceberg on a much larger problem. What if that person instead of sharing the idea with the class decided to go and construct an entire research project off of your idea and then published it? It is their work, sure, but your idea.

So yeah, I guess my take away from what my Morrie told me so many years ago is that academia can be a very cut throat environment. I want to believe that no one is being this way intentionally, I think there is just a lot of pressure to perform. ┬áIt doesn’t fell good though I can tell you that. I also see where ethics are of the utmost importance in order to keep from having situations where a person’s intellectual property is being used without their permission.Talk about dog eat dog.

Awkward Shared Experience

I have about 20 minutes before I have to leave for internship so I decided to try to get this post out real quick because something interesting happened in school last night.

First I have to comment on awesome weather right now. Awesome is maybe not the word everyone would use to describe it, it has been raining for three days straight and probably will through the end of the week do to a tropical depression that is hanging out nearby. I love it though. I have my root chakra music playing and the rain is pounding in the background, I can hear it hitting the chimney and echoing down into the fire place. I think the only reason I ever didn’t love the rain was because I had long hair and rain/humidity made it impossible to deal with. Having no hair allows me to love the rain as I actually do, fully and with enthusiasm!

So last night I was in groups class where, you guessed it, we learn how to facilitate groups and everything about group dynamics etc. One of the ways this class is being run is that we, as a class, are holding group every week and two students cofacilitate the group. They have a topic for the group to focus on etc and it gives each of us a chance to both participate in a group and run one, lots of great hands on experience.

Last night was our first group, in my opinion it was a mess at times and super uncomfortable. The main facilitator, I say main because he did not allow the woman he was cofacilitating with have an opportunity to do her thing at all! So the main facilitator appeared to have A LOT of nervous energy that he did seem self-aware of at all and he did things that were perceived by me to be patronizing, sexist, and weirdly controlling. I thought it was just me, he definitely reminds me of a few men I have encountered in life that were problems for me so I was sure this was just an issue of transference. I was uncomfortable for the first 20 minutes but bit my tongue. 2o minutes in he asked us all to stand to do an exercise, he then proceeded to separate the men from the women (there were onyl two men other than himself so he forced – literally grabbed and forced- the professor to join group and line up with the men. Background information, this group’s topic was getting a job after school, we were supposed to discuss our concerns etc.
So he lines up all the men and then has the women count off from three breaking us into three groups. He then tells us, the women, to line up in front of the men based on the number he assigned each man and take turns shaking their hands while looking in their eyes passionately. Um.. What the actual fuck is going on??

He did not explain the purpose of the exercise, even after he did later it was not clear. It was perceived by a lot of people, men and women alike, myself included, to be an exercise where the men were teaching the women how to shake hands. My feminist pieces were freaking the fuck out. This was some sexist bullshit. Not to mention sexism already exists for women in professional environments, lets just go ahead and validate that by creating a sexist exercise that prepares us for the sexism we are in for when we get the job.

And what was the whole thing about looking them in the eyes passionately? When in a professional environment should we ever be looking anyone in the eye passionately? What were learning from this? It was so awkward and sexist I could barely breathe. Oh and one more thing, once we were all done being passionate and learning how to shake hands we, the women, were told to rate the men’s performances. Holy fucking innuendo Batman! Does this guy seriously not get how weirdly inappropriate this is?? Jeezo!

So after this debacle of an exercise we all returned to our seats to continue group. The energy in the room had changed, it was tense. No one was making eye contact, it was like we were all covered in shame or something. The facilitator was clueless, he could not read the room at all and pushed on calling on people who were volunteering to participate in the discussion etc. I was so triggered I shut down. I was done with this group and this dude. He apparently did pick up on this in me and called on me deliberately, I passed because in a group you can always pass there usually is not forced participation. My pass cracked open the group and things got real for the first time all night.

One of my colleagues I know well and who knows me well could read what my pass was about so she started the ball rolling. She raised her hand and shared that she was uncomfortable with the exercise we had just done. The facilitator seemed a bit dumb founded. I then raised my hand and explained how I felt (definitely using my I voice) that it was sexist and it spoke to sexism that already exists in professional spaces. I felt like the facilitator get defensive, I braced myself for a confrontation I had been trying to avoid, but before he had the chance to respond men and women alike were chiming in about their shared discomfort with the exercise. It led to a very meaningful conversation about sexism in the workplace and what women experience. There was lots of personal sharing of stories and insightful dialogue with the other men in the room.

For the record I still do not think this guy, the facilitator got it. At the end though the professor did say that the conflict my friend and I opened up about led to the best moment the group had. He said that was the only time we acted like a real group. Yay feminism.

Quite a few of us were still processing the whole thing after class. I am glad my friend shared, I am glad I called the sexism that was happening out. I also made sure to check in with the facilitator and make sure he and I were okay. He is hard to read, I am still not sure he understood any part of what happened. That is his journey though, he will get there when he is meant to or not at all, not my concern.